The Good Sister
Australian author Sally Hepworth’s latest novel The Good Sister tells the story of a set of twin sisters, one of whom isn’t at all the person she pretends to be. It’s a quick and engaging read, but it does lack some of the sparkle found in the author’s previous work.
Rose and Fern grew up with only each other to rely on. Their mother was abusive, and the girls did everything they could to keep this fact hidden from the outside world. Their childhoods were difficult in many ways, but the girls knew they could make it through anything as long as they had each other.
As adults, Fern and Rose are still pretty close, though things have changed since they left home. Rose is level-headed and responsible, appearing to the world as someone who always knows what to do in any given situation while Fern is a little flightier, more prone to big dreams and half-baked ideas. They rarely speak of their time at home with their mother, but the shadow of the abuse they suffered at her hands is never far away.
Rose has longed to become a mother for years, but it doesn’t seem to be in the cards for her. But then Fern devises a daring plan to help her sister achieve her dream, a plan that puts both sisters in grave danger. Suddenly, the secrets of their pasts are on the verge of being discovered.
Sally Hepworth is an accomplished writer, capable of bringing complex characters to life in a way that feels effortless. Each character she creates is nuanced, the kind of person you’d expect to run into in your daily life. Here though, Rose and Fern are a little less authentic, and I couldn’t completely connect with either one, due in large part to the similarity of their voices. The twins are supposed to be vastly different from one another, but they’re almost indistinguishable on the page. It’s almost as though Ms. Hepworth wrote about one character with two names.
The structure of the narrative is a little chaotic, making it necessary for the reader to pay close attention to the timeline. We see Rose and Fern at different points in their lives, but the chronology of events is somewhat unclear. Obviously, things make perfect sense once you reach the end of the book, but the journey toward that ending could prove frustrating for some readers.
Despite these flaws, I still found myself caught up in the story and I was eager to see how things would turn out for the twins. Fern’s plan is kind of diabolical, and I enjoyed watching her work toward her goal. It’s not necessarily what I’d call a good plan, but it does make for some good escapist reading.
It’s hard to say why The Good Sister has such a different feel from the author’s other books, but something about it just feels a little less polished, a little more chaotic than what I’ve come to expect from her. Still, if you’re looking for an entertaining novel to help you pass some time, there are certainly worse books you could pick up.